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Dozens dead in Gaza after violence erupts around convoy of food aid trucks

Dozens dead in Gaza after violence erupts around convoy of food aid trucks
People mourn following an early-morning incident when residents rushed towards aid trucks in Gaza City on 29 February 2024. (Photo: AFP)

The Israeli military says it’s investigating as Gazan authorities say 112 people died in the incident, which saw thousands of people swarming to aid trucks for food and water. US bemoans ‘tragic event’ while Biden says ongoing ceasefire talks could be affected.

Scores of Palestinians were killed and injured on Thursday, 29 February, after violence broke out around a convoy of food trucks trying to deliver humanitarian aid in northern Gaza.

Local health officials blamed Israeli forces for the unrest. The Hamas-run health ministry reported that 112 people had died. 

The Israeli military said: “Gazan residents surrounded the trucks and looted the supplies being delivered. During the incident, dozens of Gazans were injured as a result of pushing and trampling.” The events are under review, it said.  

The flare-up comes as Israel’s war in Gaza nears the end of its fifth month, with the military seeking to destroy the Islamist group Hamas after it invaded the country on 7 October, killing about 1,200 people and kidnapping 250 more. Israel’s counterattack has left more than 30,000 dead, according to the health ministry, while the bombardment has devastated parts of the territory and limited access to food and health care. 

Israel says more than a third of those killed were fighters of Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the US and European Union.

Negotiations led by the US, Qatar and Egypt are under way for a pause in the conflict that would allow more aid to be delivered, as well as the exchange of Hamas-held hostages for Palestinian prisoners. US President Joe Biden said on Thursday he remained hopeful about the prospects of a ceasefire, but the aid-truck violence would likely affect the talks. He previously said that Monday was the expected starting date of the ceasefire.

Senior Biden administration officials have been in touch with the Israeli government about the incident and the US will monitor the investigation and press for answers, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday.

“This tragic event also underscores the importance of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza in response to the dire humanitarian situation, including through a potential temporary ceasefire as part of a hostage deal,” he said.

One Israeli military officer said some Gazans seeking aid approached the forces in a threatening manner, and some responded with live fire. An early army account said a handful of the casualties were caused by its soldiers, the rest a result of the chaos.

A witness, Mohammed al-Shouli, speaking by phone, said thousands of people had gathered to wait for the trucks, which started passing an Israeli checkpoint at around 4am.

“The first truck arrived and stopped 300 metres away from the checkpoint,” he said. “People swarmed the truck and thousands proceeded further to other trucks, looking for flour.”

He said 20 trucks entered, the first seven of them carrying water and canned food, and five others flour.

“People went further south toward the flour trucks and got closer to the tanks and the shooting started,” he said. “Trucks were invisible because thousands of people climbed over them.”

The episode – shootings, stumbling, chaos and running away with aid – lasted for about half an hour before all trucks were emptied, he said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Israel-Palestine War

Barely functioning

Jadallah Shafai, the head of the nursing department at Shifa Hospital, told Al Jazeera that around 50 people were killed and 250 wounded. Al Jazeera ran footage showing several bodies and injured people arriving at Shifa.

Hussam Abu Safiya, the director of the Kamal Adwan Hospital, said the facility had received at least 10 bodies and 160 wounded people, Associated Press reported.

The hospitals are barely functioning, however, after Israeli attacks during the conflict, which initially focused on the north. Israel says Hamas fighters and military equipment were hidden inside and underneath the facilities, forcing it to send in its troops. 

Northern Gaza, where Thursday’s events occurred, is in a particularly dire state, with hungry people searching for animal feed to turn into flour. Aid enters Gaza from the south, and Israel has been insisting that those seeking help should travel in that direction.

Nevertheless, several hundred thousand Palestinians have stayed in the north, and Israel has started to allow trucks to travel to the area. But aid delivery has been fraught with looting. 

“We mourn the loss of innocent life and recognise the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where innocent Palestinians are just trying to feed their families,” White House National Security Council spokesman Eduardo Maia Silva said. “This underscores the importance of expanding and sustaining the flow of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, including through a potential temporary ceasefire as part of a hostage deal.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Du Plessis says:

    Release the hostages and all those f this can stop immediately. Hamas must be held accountable for stealing aid to weaponise food against Gaza civilians and other crimes against humanity

    • Andrew Tate says:

      Give it up , Steve. Israel’s 75 years reign of terror over the Palestinian people without fear of consequences are drawing to a close. Israel, including those vile and despicable people like you that support their heinous acts, will get what they deserve, if not now, then some day.

      • Erik van Heerden says:

        This is ALL the fault of Hamas – not Israel. These terrorists have the blood of all the innocent people on their hands. Surrender is the only solution… Israel will complete the mission of destroying these evil Hamas terrorists completely…

      • Steve Du Plessis says:

        History will be the judge and I’m very comfortable with the side I’m on. You carry on supporting Islamic fundament it’s terror – until it arrives at your front door

    • John P says:

      A typical one sided comment from you. Hamas needs to release the hostages and Israel needs to release the political detainees who are held without trial. Even then “this” will not stop until there is a negotiated settlement.

  • Johan Buys says:

    To understand the toll of the Gaza war : in 24 months about 15,000 Ukranian civilians died during the Russian invasion, a war that features ongoing artillery, tank, drone and missile attacks. More than 15,000 civilians have died in 5 months in Gaza.

    • Mark Parker says:

      You tell half the story…approximately 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have died and a reported 15,000 soldiers. Russian deaths are a reported 315,000. Here is another interesting point. In all of the Israeli wars 1948/1956/1967/1982/2006/2023 there have been approximately 70,000 deaths (including 2023). Now since you prefer comparisons the Syrian Civil War sits at approx. 650,000 deaths with half of those civilians, Yemen is around 230,000 with an estimated 1.3m to die by 2030. So in terms of the death toll in Gaza which is being fought in very complicated circumstances due to Hamas’ preferred tactics the percentage of civilians deaths in the conflict is unfortunately “acceptable” in terms of brutal warfare. This is not to say that it is not heartbreaking, that’s what happens in wars. As far as this latest episode is concerned, I still am questioning why Egypt has not opened the Rafah Gate and allowed the Gazans into the Sinai into a safe-zone refugee camp that could be set up very quickly with the help of the international community. Those that wish to leave, can leave and then aid can move in freely and quickly outside of a war zone. Once the war is over and the rebuild begins, they return to assist and help the rebuild process. I am afraid that the Palestinians “cooked their goose” with Egypt based on their previous actions with the Muslim Brotherhood.

      • JP K says:

        Correction. Israel’s response is not “acceptable”. This is why the genocide case is before the ICJ. Even if it is not genocide – though it certainly looks like it – that says nothing of Israel’s failure to comply with laws of warfare such as proportionality. Indeed it is a criticism of the case brought against Israel that it does not create charges relating war crimes incontrovertibly being committed by Israel (collective punishment is the obvious one).

        Furthermore, proximate shielding does not make indiscriminate targeting permissible which clearly is the case. Even supposing Israel is to believed (if you’re that credulous) that it is only going after Hamas and even supposing that one can destroy it militarily (one just has to think about ISIS, the Taliban, the IRA etc.) , how do you explain the collective punishment being meted out on Gazans in terms of the siege and blockade which limits, at it’s most basic level, goods such as fuel, food, water and medicine needed to survive?

        The thing is, you can’t…

        • Mark Parker says:

          Here you go…
          1. Where and when has proportionality ever been used in war and it is definitely not in the “rules of war”? You kill 1,200 and then I will kill 1,200 and then I go home? How utterly ludicrous.
          2. Collective punishment is your charge or rather collateral damage (ie. non-combatant deaths). Once again name me a single conflict where there are not civilian deaths and if one takes into account civilian deaths particularly in the Arab Middle East, the death toll in Gaza is almost insignificant. It is the attempted mitigation of such that is the critical factor, the ratio currently is assumed to be 2 to 1 owing to the “martyrdom victim” strategy of islamic jihad.
          3. In terms of your collective punishment charge due to the siege and blockade which limits humanitarian aid. I would counter that Egypt is as complicit as much as Israel might be. Egypt should open the Rafah Gate and allow Gazans into the Sinai to provide a temporary safe zone, not from Israel, but from Hamas who continue to shield themselves behind civilians and who dive into their bomb shelters after firing their rockets from the safe zones.
          4. You provide all the reasons why Israel should stop the war and how they are not complying with the “laws of war” but provide zero as to why Hamas should lay down its weapons, release the hostages or at the very least list where they are responsible for their crimes against humanity (Jewish and Gazan).
          The thing is you don’t want to…

          • JP K says:

            Here we go. Someone inevitably was going to defend plausible genocide. Might as well be you. Well done.

            (1) Unfortunately you don’t know what you’re talking about. Proportionality is part of the Geneva conventions.

            (2) Unfortunately you don’t know what you’re talking about. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians as Israel does is not permissible under international law. The fact that in some cases civilians die does not mean that indiscriminate targeting is persmissible. The fact that in some wars this happens does not make it legal. Proximate human shielding does not exonerate Israel of its human rights law obligations.

            (3) Not my collective punishment charge. Human Rights Watch.

            (4) Hamas is a terrorist organisation guilty of war crimes. And Israel is a terrorist state plausibly committing the most evil of crimes – genocide.

            In terms of solutions – I’m happy to discuss. I’ve given opinions on this plenty of times. Problably you just wish to ignore them. At the end of the day, the only way this will end is through a diplomatic resolution not through the barrel of a gun. So stop exusing war crimes and crimes against humanity. And for heaven’s sake, at least get your basic facts right.

          • JP K says:

            Look, you made a basic mistatement regarding the acceptability of Israel’s response. You’ve now doubled down confirming that you are applying your own faulty logic to the situation when laws exist on what is permissible which you clearly do not understand. Hamas does not give Israel the right to plausibly commit genocide. You get that? Plausible genocide.

        • Alan Salmon says:

          You think you are so intelligent. Big words. What exactly is proportionality? 1,400 give or take? A rout is started by a side/group. Did they think or care about who they kil;led, or how they killed them? Hamas just slaughtered. The Palestininians must have known about the endless digging underneath their homes. SWhat did they do about it?

        • Ben Harper says:

          Please cite the laws that dictate proportionality. I’ll save you some time, there aren’t any.

          • JP K says:

            Hey Ben.
            You can find it in the Additional Articles to the Geneva Convention.

            The principle of proportionality in attack is codified in Article 51(5)(b) which states that indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Attacks considered indiscriminate: “an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated”

            Also, cf. Article 57.

      • Johan Buys says:

        Mark: I suggest you consider that Gaza is an area the size of Sandton. 15,000 dead at the hands of a sophisticated army means Israel is guilty of one of:

        1. Gross incompetence.
        2. Criminal intent.

        The fact that they appear to entirely failed to detect (maybe they did not?) a terrorist attack involving hundreds of terrorists equipped with anything from bulldozers to paragliders lends credence to criminal incompetence.

        This war serves the interests of a a cornered minority coalition whose leader was facing not only personal corruption prosecution but a judicial revolt for suppression of the rule of Law.

        History will not be kind of this Israeli government. Don’t confuse criticism of this government with being anti Jew. Tens of thousands of Israeli Jews oppose their government.

        • Mark Parker says:

          For JP K…whom I cannot reply under his comments.
          He/she just loathes the Israeli state and its inhabitants. JP K provides a “superficial” condemnation of Hamas but attacks Israel’s actions using international law and assumes their guilt without proof but then presents it as “facts”… the flawed logic is palpable.
          But here is the point, in the real world, where we live, laws are only worthwhile if implemented. In particular the murky world of international law has been shown to be not worth the paper it is written on. The ANC Government has even refused to implement their international legal obligations, making their little fund-raising trip to the ICJ so galling. Furthermore Israel is the only party that can be charged and condemned for “war crimes” because Hamas is…? Which Qatari royal will hand over Haniyeh if in fact he was ever charged?
          So JP K pumping out international law and UNHRC and HRW “findings” (those bastions of anti-West/Israel) as a little “gotcha” moment is laughable. I have this image of JP K wandering around Lebanon during a firefight with a clipboard with a Gen. Conv tick sheet, shouting “I’ll sue you” at the IDF.
          As the Israeli’s will tell you, as will the Kurds, Uigurs, Syrians, Sudanese, etc. who reside in the real world, there are no laws being adhered to here, and the Palestinians and Hamas in particular adhere to no such laws, Human Rights?? JP K quotes Hamas Charter yet knowingly ignores Articles 7; 15; 13; 22 & 33. Why did you do this?

          • JP K says:

            Pointing out international law obigations and violations thereof based on credible sources are not “gotcha moments”. Problems with both the laws and enforcement notwithstanding, they exist for a reason. Recall that IHL had foundations in the response to the horrors of WWII.

            Clearly you have to reject both the laws and findings regarding violations in your support of Israel as it plausibly commits genocide and war crimes. Indeed, you also need to undermine HRW and UNHRC. But not just them. Pretty much all major organisations that work for the protection of human rights. You also have to attack me personally too it seems.

            If Israel wishes to be even more of a pariah state than it already is then it should just forget all pretense and withdraw from the conventions. And let me remind you as Israel reminded us – Israel was one of the first signatories to the genocide convention.

            On the Hamas charter – looks like you may be quoting the old one. E.g. Article 13 is about the right to return of refugees which Israel rejects (there’s that pesky international law again). Article 33 is about Palestinians working together for liberation. Again, I suggest you get your basic facts right.

            On superficial condemnation of Hamas. Mark, Israel is an occupying power, an Apartheid state, has Gaza under siege and blockade. Not only is Hamas is a natural reponse to this, its rise was supported by Israel to undermine the peace process. Israel is now plausibly committing genocide.

          • JP K says:

            Just a quick question Mark Parker: on what basis do you support starvation as a weapon of war against the Palestinian civilian population?

          • Ben Harper says:

            @ JP K, do you even understand what the word “plausible” means? One cannot “commit” plausible genocide, one either commits genocide or one doesn’t, there is no such thing as “committing plausible genocide”. The ICJ finding was that it “may be plausible” that acts of genocide “may have been committed. In other words, it looks like Israel may have committed acts that could be construed as genocidal in nature but we will have to investigate this properly to determine whether or not they have

            So please STOP the fake narrative

  • Louise Wilkins says:

    This is terrible, so very sad. The people are starving and it’s a desperate situation. Israel has to stop now.

    • Ben Harper says:

      No, Hamas needs to be destroyed now.

    • Mark Parker says:

      Why must Israel stop? Israel is the only country in the world that can never win a war, can only get to a 1-1 scoreline, and must fight proportionally. Why do you not ask Hamas to stop? They have the easiest decision to make, free the hostages and surrender. This can be done…today…and then it all stops.

      • Rodney Weidemann says:

        “Israel’s counterattack has left more than 30,000 dead… Israel says more than a third of those killed were fighters of Hamas”

        Because when by Israel’s own stats, they’ve killed 20000 civilians, they are quite literally the bad guys (just as the allies – who had every justification to bomb Germany in WW2 – were the bad guys when bombing Dresden in 1945)…

        • Mark Parker says:

          Israel (the Jewish people) will always be the bad guys, until the day they pack up and leave “Palestine” and even then probably not (this is ingrained history and even written in the Qu’ran. They could literally find a cure for cancer that would save hundreds of millions of people and charge 1c per dose to recover some cost and they would be accused of ripping off humanity for charging and assisting in genocide because it is not free.

          • JP K says:

            Correction. Israel is not equivalent to Jewish people.

            Also, Israel will stop being the bad guy (I think lunatic state is probably a better term) when it ends its occupation and stuff. Come now, even the Hamas charter spells out what their objectives are: right to self-determination, ’67 borders etc. Not sure why you’re playing the victim on behalf of Israel.

            On your cancer story… clearly you’re just upset. Because obviously even if Nazi Germany found a cure for cancer and it was free (except for Untermenschen of course) that would not make the holocaust okay would it?

          • Rodney Weidemann says:

            Except they haven’t found a cute for cancer – one of the most sophisticated armies on the planet has slaughtered some 25 000 women and children (that start according to the US secretary of defence) …

      • JP K says:

        I can’t remember who said this, but apparently colonialist projects end in one of two ways: (1) withdrawl (2) genocide. Sadly we can see which way this is going and it should come as no surprise.

        This war, really, has nothing to do with Israeli hostages. Israel itself has said it’s only a secondary consideration, the primary (stated) objective being the destruction of Hamas. Why then would Hamas release hostages? Particularly if Israel does not wish to release Palestinian detainees held without charge or trail (arbitrarily detained they are called which sounds so much better than hostages). A further 2200 have been held since 7 October. For the hostages previously released by Israel, they released detainees. So one might well reasonably question why not continue with the exchanges? But remember, hostages are a secondary consideration who merely provide a fig leaf for the real objective – Nakba 2.0. It’s not complicated.

        Clearly, if Hamas is destroyed, the conditions which gave rise to Hamas will remain. The problem is the occupation (and all that that entails) .

        • Mark Parker says:

          Do you actually read the stuff you write?
          You query why Hamas should release the hostages if the primary objection is the destruction of Hamas?
          1. Because the primary responsibility as the “elected” government of Gaza is to protect, advance and promote the welfare of the citizens of Gaza who entrusted them with this responsibility!
          The fact that you think that the actions of Hamas when they attacked and killed 1200 Israelis and then dragged 240 innocent Jewish men, women and children back to Gaza, didn’t immediately place ALL the lives of Gazans in mortal danger is beyond belief. It proves beyond doubt that in your eyes and also in the eyes of Hamas that Gazan lives are not worth a jot because it is their duty as Muslims to die and be martyred.
          2. Furthermore you wish to gamble, like that of Hamas, with the lives of 2.3m Gazan people so that you may save 2,200 Hamas terrorists / militants /detainees sitting “out of danger” in Israeli prisons.

          Unbeknownst to you, you have, in explaining your thinking have neatly summed up the thinking of Hamas too and inadvertently shown that you care not a jot for the lives of Gazans but rather the sanctity of Hamas above all else.
          The Hamas leadership sitting in Qatar enjoying life share your thoughts and should be indicted for crimes against humanity and you should take a serious look in the mirror.

          • JP K says:

            Mark, you’ve already shown you don’t understand the IHL.

            And I’m afraid you’re reading things into my comments which I’ve not said. e.g “The fact that you think that the actions of Hamas when they attacked and killed 1200 Israelis and then dragged 240 innocent Jewish men, women and children back to Gaza, didn’t immediately place ALL the lives of Gazans in mortal danger is beyond belief.” Those are not my thoughts.

            Israel’s response to Hamas attrocities, sadly, was entirely predicatable – though even you, who cares so much for life, must be appalled by the brutal response being meted out on civilians?

            But for all your concern, you’re awfully quiet when it comes to plausible genocide. When it comes to starvation as a weapon of war. When it comes to mowing the lawn. When it comes to the thousands of people detained without charge. Etc. etc. and so on and so forth.

            2. Um, not sure what your point is. Nowhere have I condoned Hamas’ actions. It’s understandable – but I don’t condone it. Let’s be clear – international law should be abided by – hostages should be released, occupation should end, Palestinians should not have the right to self-determination blocked etc.

            3. Hamas is a terrorist organisation. It exists because of the conditions which Israel has subjected Palestinians to (occupation, siege, Apartheid etc.) and because of Israel’s attempt to undermine the peace process. Currently, the war on Hamas also serves to distract from Netenyahu’s own legal problems.

        • Ben Harper says:

          Wow, just wow!!! So many lies in such a short piece

          • John P says:

            What lies?

          • JP K says:

            I’m happy to retract or correct any inaccuracies. Just point them out please?

          • JP K says:

            Hey again Ben.

            On the charge you level of me not understanding the meaning of the word plausible and that I said “committing plausible genocide”. Except that I never said that… Are you trying to gaslight?

            Here are examples of what I said:

            “Someone inevitably was going to defend plausible genocide
            And Israel is a terrorist state plausibly committing the most evil of crimes – genocide.”

            “Clearly you have to reject both the laws and findings regarding violations in your support of Israel as it plausibly commits genocide and war crimes.”

            “Israel is now plausibly committing genocide.”

            Just in case there is any confusion, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that Israel is plausibly committing genocide. Funny thing, you yourself acknowledge this. I’m not sure what the problem is…

  • André Pelser says:

    Choosing sides in this matter is not the proper approach and personal insults are not helpful,
    neither are jaundiced eyes.
    This conflict is driven by religious nationalism, and fear of civilizational extermination, on both sides.
    The Sunni/Shiite conflict is also an element not given due consideration.
    A study of the just war and reprisal doctrines and the history of political development in the region would perhaps promote more reasoned comment e.g. read the Peace to end all peace, a seminal work by David Fromkin.
    Terrorism is not justifiable.
    This war should be ended by surrounding states, which have the most to gain, and lose. The role of the rest of the international community should be to support a regionally driven peace process.
    Neither Hamas, nor Israel can “win” this war, there should be an acceptance of a mutually destructive downward spiral and urgent need for a compromise – as an infamous local politician once said ” the alternative is too ghastly to contemplate”!
    Let’s hope the current negotiations bring about a ceasefire, enabling orderly humanitarian aid, and necessary assurances of the right to co-existence and security for Israelis and Palestinians, although one can expect radical Jihadists and Hamas to undermine all efforts to assure Israel of its right to existence as a state.

    • Ben Harper says:

      What you’re saying is the war should be ended by surrounding states… would those be the same surrounding states that have collectively attacked Israel and tried to wipe it off the face of the earth numerous times (and failed each time), the same surrounding states that support, house and finance Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, ISIS and the Muslim Brotherhood, all proxies of Iran?

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